OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Derek Bard hopes to play the under-the-radar card as long as he can this week at the U.S. Amateur.
After sending home two of the top five players in the world, he no longer has that luxury.
A day after beating Walker Cupper Hunter Stewart, Bard, a junior at Virginia, flipped a 3-down deficit with eight to play to knock off world No. 1 Jon Rahm, 1 up, at Olympia Fields.
Bard, ranked 51st in the world, will play Kenta Konishi of Japan in Saturday’s semifinals. The winner of that match will receive an invitation to the Masters.
“I kind of looked at it like if I win, that’s fantastic. If I lose, I was supposed to lose,” Bard said Friday. “That kind of just makes me feel a little freer out there. Just hit good shots and keep it as simple as possible.”
It’s been an unusual week for Rahm.
The Arizona State senior needed to birdie two of his last three holes just to reach a playoff for match play. Then, in his opening-round match against George Cunningham, he prevailed in extra holes, but only after stuffing a shot to 2 feet.
In all, he trailed for only six holes all week, but two misses inside 5 feet down the stretch proved costly.
With a chance to take a 2-up lead, he power-lipped out from 5 feet on 15. On the next hole, he hit the lip on a 4-footer. He trailed for the first time in the match after the 17th hole, where he missed the green right and then three-putted.
Bard’s 10-foot par putt on 18 sealed the match.
“Extremely disappointed with myself,” Rahm said. “The most disappointing thing was that I was in control all day until I missed those putts.”
With another win Saturday against Komishi, Bard could be in position to steal one of the final Walker Cup spots. He admitted that the 10-man squad was an afterthought this week, though he recorded an impressive victory earlier this summer at the Sunnehanna Amateur.
“I’m not thinking about that right now,” he said. “There are a lot of great players that are probably ahead of me on that list for the last five spots. I’m just going to go out there tomorrow and do the same thing I’ve been doing for the last few days.”